Today I heard the news that the oldest Bible will go live on the internet later this week. The Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Its heavily corrected text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible and the manuscript – the oldest substantial book to survive Antiquity – is of supreme importance for the history of the book. This has been made possible by The Codex Sinaiticus Project -an international collaboration to reunite the entire manuscript in digital form and make it accessible to a global audience for the first time. Drawing on the expertise of leading scholars, conservators and curators, the Project gives everyone the opportunity to connect directly with this famous manuscript. To read more on this see http://www.codex-sinaiticus.net/en/
So will we discover that some of the passages we have grown to know and love so well are not quite what they should be? No doubt this will re-ignite arguments and discussions amongst scholars, and I guess soon we’ll have the Blokes Codex S or the 100 minute Codex Sinaiticus appearing in Christian bookshops? What I’d rather see is that all thinking Christians think about how they reflect Jesus to their friends, family and neighbours. After all, you could be the only bible they ever read.
Andy Warhol said we could all be famous for 15 minutes, but what could you do to help make Jesus better known? A new website Make Jesus Famous launches tomorrow Tuesday – 30th June. It would be brilliant if everyone who read this blogchecked it out and registered their ‘idea’ for sharing faith in their neighbourhood. All you need to do is briefly describe your everyday work … easy! You can then upload your photo or a suitable image, and make it part of the homepage ‘image wall’.
You can pre-register at www.makejesusfamous.org.uk right now, and you will be sent a reminder email on the launch day.
Hopefully, Christians who will inspire each other withtheir ideas, achievements and comments to spread the Good News . This in turn will build an ever-growing evangelism resource, harnessing the Christian creativity at work throughout the nation. If you ask why does Jesus need making famous?- the answer was given in a piece of research published only a couple of days ago when it was reported that a fifth of the population have no idea about the death and resurrection stories of Jesus.
Give it a try! Please help us Make Jesus Famous by pre-registering today. Many thanks – you will make a huge difference if you take part.
Jewish Christian Steve Maltz the author of ‘How the church lost the way’– is passionate about how the roots of our faith have been damaged by the influence of Greek philosophy and culture. He suggests that the church needs to recover its roots if it is ever to fulfil its destiny, and see true and sustained revival. He makes some interesting arguments, but one thing I certainly agree with him on is his passion for the church to break out more and have a real impact on our culture, right here and now. Steve makes the point well in this passage from the chapter Redoing Religion:
” The question I now ask is, if we follow such a big God why do we cram Him into such a small box? We should let Him loose, let Him roam freely, let Him act according to His awesome nature. Of course He already does, but we act as if He lived just in ancient buildings, sports halls on a Sunday hire, or in front rooms swept clean of profane literature and embarrassing relatives…God doesn’t just live in church buildings for a couple of hours every Sunday. For a start nowhere in the bible is Church ever meant to be a building. It was the Greek Church fathers who changed things, leading to an idea that any expression of Christianity is best confined to a meeting place rather than the people who meet there. Whereas Jesus tells us to go out into the world to preach His Gospel, we have ending up telling the world to come into Church, to find Jesus there. And what does the world really find when it goes there?”
This morning I am off to talk to a group of Christians meeting in a hired-community centre who want to have their own Church building..interesting.
My earlier blog about Steve’s work can be found at https://unfinishedchristian.wordpress.com/2009/06/09/losing-our-way/
Over the past few months I have listened to scores of people about the nature of how God calls us into ministry and service. I have personally found it really unsettling experiencing God guiding me into situations in which I am personally uncomfortable; yet once there -channeling something of God’s purpose and love to others. It has been a process of breaking me down and rebuilding me, slowly and gradually to appreciate that when I do things in God’s strength rather than mine amazing things can happen out of simple conversations. It has made me realise just how unfinished I am as a Christian, and also how complacent I have been for decades. I know that I still don’t take enough risks for the gospel. I now appreciate that feeling challenged and unsettled is something I have to get used to as I work out, if I can, the nature of God’s inescapable call.
Nick Fawcett puts this well in his Daily Prayer book- a constant companion of mine:
“Gracious God, I thanks you for your call: the invitation to be part of the work of your kingdom. I thank you that you welcome me as I am- with all my faults and doubts- and that though I fail you repeatedly, still you want to use me in your service. Gracious God, I praise you for that inescapable sense of call that you give; help me to respond. In the name of Christ. Amen.”
I hope this is a prayer we can all say.
In the UK just 18 of the more than 300 commercial radio stations broadcast a regular religious show, an all-time low for on-air spiritual content, according to Whistling Frog Productions. This past week I was at a conference which was focusing on the impact church and faith issues can have within a media culture obsessed by celebrity. Maybe God goss.com provides part of the answer. God Goss.comis a new and developing brand based around a weekly, one-minute “showbiz”-style bulletin of fun and serious religious and Christian news. It aims to amuse, inform and give faith a bit of a fairer press than it sometimes gets. At the moment the bulletin is broadcast on Heart 103 and Heart 96.3 Cambridge and Bristol- you can check out the sound files yourself at http://www.godgoss.com/
If you can see a use for GodGoss.com in helping to gossip the gospel on your local radio station then get in touch and I’ll pass on your comments to the team. If it’s not the sort of thing that appeals to you, but you can see the impact it can achieve then please add the GodGoss.com team to your prayer list.
The mysterious undercover graffiti artist Banksy has infiltrated Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery this week and filled it with more than 100 of his iconoclastic creations. The grand vaulted Georgian galleries more used to hosting renaissance and impressionist masterpieces now give way to Banksy’s modern, humorous and controversial creations. Visitors to the exhibition, which is free and lasts until August, will be greeted in the foyer by a burnt out ice cream van, the remains of giant melted cornet running down its roof. A dummy riot policeman wearing a balaclava and a badge saying Metropolitan Peace is making his getaway from the carnage on a fairground horse. Exhibits have been infiltrated into the galleries alongside the museum’s own works of art. In one typically Banksian pun Dorothy and Toto from the Wizard of Oz are painted on a sheet of rusting iron with a speech bubble saying: “I don’t think we’re on canvas any more.”
There are digs at contemporary culture, including an original Damian Hirst spot painting defaced by a rat with a paint roller. A stencilled picture shows a starving African orphan holding a bucket saying: “Peaches Geldof – please give generously.”
The installations have had a mixed reception. It’s hard to be neutral about Banksy- you love him or hate him. The exhibition made me think of the shock waves that Jesus would have created amongst the religious establishment as he took his parables and teachings to people and place that were frowned upon by the religious establishment of the day. Banksy makes us think about what art is and how it connects with the reality of life, politics, values and popular culture: Jesus does much the same thing in relation to God. He seemed to be out of place in the synagogue and temple- always making shock waves and causing controversy. He also connected through humour, irony, vivid imagery and also kept his identity under wraps for most of his ministry and was hugely popular. Some of our churches have taken on the style and feel of an establishment art gallery and our Banksy Christ seems to have left the building for good. The tragic thing is that some our Christian curators seem really pleased.
The keynote speaker at the conference I have been attending this week was The Attorney General, the Rt Hon the Baroness Scotland QC who spoke on the importance of faith in the public space. She was clear and positive about the role individuals and faith groups have to play in a society in which she said “faith flourishes when respect for it is freely given by individuals and it is not just defended by public institutions.” She added that faith matters in the public space and it has the potential to make or break the modern world we live in when it is too often misunderstood to the point where it provides fertile ground for conflict and intolerance. Baroness Scotland, a Roman Catholic, shared how she has worn her cross every day of her adult life and often prays when on the front bench as well as before taking major decisions. Inspired by the vision of President Obama she that with faith inspired idealism it is a case of, “Yes we can and yes we must- the cultivation of respectful, positive relationships between the faith communities is vital. It is important that people gather around a common purpose for a concrete outcome.”
She slammed religious extremism as diminishing God. “He is not a God of one group but God of all and faith is not an optional extra. It goes right through you and is reflected in everything you do and aspire to achieve.” It’s hard to imagine the Christian faith having a better and more well-placed advocate in politics and the public space than Patricia Scotland.